Pope's Response Compassionate, Sex Abuse Victims Say

ABC News

July 21, 2008

Two victims of sexual abuse have released a statement about their meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in Sydney this morning.

The Pope celebrated mass with two selected men and two women about 7:00am (AEST) at St Mary's Cathedral before leaving the country

The two, who wish to remain anonymous, say the Pope twice told them abuse must be stopped at the Seminary training stage.

They say the second time the pontiff directed his comments towards clergy who were standing a short distance away.

The victims say the Pope twice told them abuse must be stopped at the Seminary training stage.

The statement says they were invited to meet the Pope by the Church's New South Wales Professional Standards Office so they could accept an apology for themselves and to represent other victims of sexual abuse.

"During the meeting with the Pope it was clear he was well aware of our experiences," the statement said.

"He was compassionate in his words of consolation to us.

"We were moved by the Pope's compassionate response to us and his comment that he would continue to pray for all victims of sexual abuse.

"He said he hoped the meeting would help us and others to move forward with our lives."

Some other victims, including the Broken Rites group, have complained that they have been deliberately excluded from the process of the apology, saying the meeting was stage-managed by the Church.

Melbourne couple Anthony and Christine Foster, whose two daughters were repeatedly raped at primary school by a Melbourne priest, cut their holiday in Europe short to travel to Sydney to try to meet with the Pope and call on the church to offer sex abuse victims long-term support.

Mr Foster says he was not aware of the meeting and he feels ignored by the church.

"In regards to the issue of sexual abuse caused by Catholic clergy, they've shown an incredible lack of humanity," he said.

But the Catholic Church's most senior figure in Australia, Cardinal George Pell, has defended the selection process for four victims of sexual abuse.

Cardinal Pell said the mass was designed to be a small, private gathering.


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